Damn, that was short.
I had read that Zone of the Enders was a short game, but even I was surprised by the sudden ending. Not to spoil anything, but the real problem is that the game spends 10 minutes in another dopey cutscene getting you interested in the next mission... and then credits start to roll. That's a dirty trick, Konami!
Actually, the whole plot is a dirty trick. 7 hours later, I still have no idea what an Ender is or why they have a Zone. I couldn't name any of the supporting characters for you (except useless damsel Celvice) and I have no real sense of what I did. Except for blowing up giant robots from TOWN.1 to CITY.2 and every unnamed FACTORY and PARK inbetween. (Really, guys. You waste time with a half-fleshed, no-license, Gundam-esque world and then don't even bother to name the levels? How about Casino Night Zone?)
But blowing up things is just about all this game is about... so it's nice that part is done extremely well.
Each level usually revolves around you blowing up all the enemy squads. Sometimes some simple go-here-and-do-this instructions are also included. I can't stress enough how fast combat is... which is nice and all, but it actually numbs you to the point where you're just mashing buttons and not actively choosing strategies. Although you gather about 10 types of special weaponry by the end of the game, it was rare that I ever paid attention to them at all. Me gamer. Me mash buttons to win.
That said, combat is a blast. This is exactly how future Gundam and Dragon Ball Z games should play. Full roaming 3D airspace, detailed ground scenery... loud, noisy explosions and full white-out effects. Your attacks are wild to watch, especially when the fast-paced combat camera starts dictating the action. The camera in ZOE rarely gets in your way, thanks to a nice lock-on system that keeps your attacks centered even if your viewpoint isn't. The way the camera flies around - entirely separate of your own doing - is what will impress the casual viewer. Go ahead, sarge, pretend you're controlling the camera too!
The battle arenas are generally huge and detailed as well... skyscrapers, cars, churchs and houses all await blasting. Once you've cleared out an area, you'll want to swoop around for the view. (And for the cute roller-blading moves you can do on roads.) The mech models are intricately designed, full of PS2-powered elements like pulsing light and particle effects. Controlling your robot ("Jehuty") in 3D airspace is smooth, although I would rather have had ascend/descend on R1/R2 instead of X and triangle.
The enemies are just as pretty and well-armed... but you only see 3 different types. The low-powered skinny one, the beefier skinny one, and the one that hides behind a big shield. These same three dogs appear in every level. I wish there was more enemy variety, because these guys get pretty boring.
Luckily, the bosses are pretty cool looking. They're all ugly giant robot monsters, usually crouched in a neighborhood that could be your grandmother's retirement colony. Bosses also throw a good amount of chit-chat at you, which looks to be a hallmark of PS2 gaming. Now that they have the DVD space for audio samples, they're going to use it!
But back to the cutscenes. Oh, the cutscenes. There are some that are very pretty renders; but quite a bit that just force you to stare at the finished level while the main character and the robot computer yell at each other. The main character, Leo, is the centerpiece in a tedious plotline that never really comes together. The most you get out of it is that Leo doesn't want to kill anybody. THEN GET OUT OF THE DAMN MECH, YOU FRUIT, BECAUSE WHERE I COME FROM, IT'S CLOBBERING TIME! Leo's endless whining turns the whole thing into a Mystery Science Theater B-movie, and it's a shame that such sucky voice acting and lamey script has to drag down such a pretty game.